Boise's Jones Forced to Adjust

BOISE – When the crowd at Memorial Stadium hears "Sumter County Friday Nights" by country singer Lee Brice, they know the Hawks' Richard Jones is stepping to the plate. It hasn't been an easy ride so far for the Sumter County, S.C., native in his quest to get to the big leagues.

"I started off in Peoria and got off to a slow start, and I kind of went into panic mode a little bit," Jones said. "That's not what you want from a mature player. I got sent back to Mesa and I needed to work on some things, which I agreed (with)."

Jones was 0-for-3 with a walk in the Hawks 6-2 loss to Yakima on Friday. He is batting only .191 with 13 strikeouts in 47 at-bats with the team.

Peoria is where Jones was switched from his original draft position of catcher to the outfield and then first base, and his bat wasn't clicking, either.

"I think he was a little bit lost when he came to us, so basically we are just trying to clear his head and get some confidence back in him and let him just play ball," Hawks manager Jody Davis said of Jones.

Baseball has always been a big part of Jones' life and his family's life. During high school in Sumter, S.C., Jones played prep baseball for his uncle and summer ball for another uncle before going on to play at The Citadel.

There, Jones hit .378 with 17 home runs while racking up 69 RBIs in his final college season. In 2007, Jones was named Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and was a Baseball America Freshman All-American.

That's when Jones knew he would pursue a career in pro ball.

"I told my dad before my freshman season (that) if I have a decent season and year, I'm really going to go after it and give it my best shot," Jones said.

"It turns out that I had a good freshman year and everything just kept going the way it needed to. I'm not saying I didn't have any speed bumps, but you slowly start to realize that it's going to happen."

Jones' first goal of getting drafted soon became a reality in 2009 when the Cubs selected him in the ninth round and sent him to Boise.

But during these past two seasons, Jones began having problems with his left knee, causing the organization to change his position.

"It's just good to have a coach know I can play outfield if they needed me, or play first base if they needed me, and if I needed to catch, I still can catch," Jones said.

The challenge of learning a new position was made more difficult by Jones' subpar hitting performances in Peoria. Hitting only .216 at Peoria had Jones heading to extended spring training in Arizona.

"I think it's quite the adjustment for him, not only changing positions but changing levels, too, so he has a whole other set of headaches to worry about when he's not hitting," Davis said.

Being back in Boise for a second season comes with familiarity for Jones, who is staying with the same host family as last year.

"I'm here, I'm continuing to work, and I love Boise. I hate being back down a level, but it is a great place and great people, and I still need to work on some things so it's a great place to do it," Jones said.

Boise also provides a backdrop for Jones to so some things he loves other than baseball.

"I got my fishing license and the Boise River is just a quarter mile down the road, so hopefully I can go fishing in the morning before coming here," Jones said.

Despite many ups and downs since being drafted by the Cubs, Jones brings some leadership experience and expertise to the Hawks.

"He's a guy out of Citadel, so he's pretty serious about what he's doing and pretty quiet," Davis said. "All these guys are coming and trying to get better and for Jones, I think Citadel and his work ethic really help all of the other guys, seeing that he handles his business first."

Thanks to Jones, Boise gets a little taste of Sumter every time he comes to bat, whether it is on a Friday night or not.

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